A new law passed by Cypriot MPs bans public smoking indoors in a bid to curb some of the highest levels of passive smoking in Europe.
MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour in the 56-seat legislature yesterday.
The law, which comes into effect on January 1, bans lighting up in most all-enclosed spaces, including establishments long popular with smokers such as nightclubs, coffee shops, pool halls and betting shops. Outdoor patios and other open-air spaces are exempt.
Lawbreakers will face fines of up to €2,000.
The law’s passage came after months of political wrangling and vociferous opposition from smokers and organised nightclub and restaurant owners seeking an exemption from the ban amid fears it would drive them to ruin.
Smoking kills 600 people every year out of a population of roughly 800,000, says Cyprus National Coalition for Smoking Prevention president Stelios Sycallides.
A recent EU survey showed 29% of Cypriots were regular smokers, just below the EU average of 31%.
But the island leads all other EU member countries in non-smokers’ exposure to second-hand smoke at home with 31% and is second only to Greece in workplace exposure with 45%.
A Cyprus health ministry study released earlier this year found traces of nicotine in the saliva of 97% of a random sample of 134 children.
A public smoking ban has been in place since 2002, but lax enforcement meant it was widely flouted.
“Smokers lit up whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted,” said Mr Sycallides. “But I believe we’ll have a high degree of conformity to the law once it comes into force.”
The EU survey showed two thirds of Cypriots favour a workplace smoking ban, but only about half support restrictions in restaurants, bars and clubs.
Mr Sycallides said nightclub owners’ concerns are exaggerated, citing other countries where complete smoking bans have not forced such establishments to shut down for lack of business.